Mobile is Waiting in the Wings: Will it Steal the Show?
The end of media as we know it has been predicted for a few years, but only now is there a ring of truth to it—in the sense that an old business model is giving way to a new one, but without the stability or knowledge of the outcome.
While magazines and newspapers, especially those covering general and business news, are grappling with hemorrhaging circulation and lower ad revenues due to online cannibalization of print, they often forget another medium in the wings waiting to change the model yet again: mobile.
In both online and mobile, consumers drive the trends. Put simply, readers increasingly prefer the interactivity, ease of use, convenience and timeliness of news and videos on digital media such as traditional and mobile websites and applications.
Another major attraction of the online and mobile mediums is that four-letter word that is the bête noire of legacy media operations: free.
So here are some tips to guide publishers as they set about implementing their mobile publishing plans.
1. Have a viable business model.
Publishers looking into mobile have to decide their business model at the outset: paid subscription, free with advertising support, paid subscription and ad support, or free with single sponsor, etc.
Whatever the decision, the model should sync with the online model you pursue. It does not bear to repeat what happened with online and print, where the newer channel was free to access despite being more sophisticated, while the older channel stuck to newsstand or subscription pricing.
The obvious preference would be to start with free access supported by ads, then test the waters with paid subscription. Indeed, charge for SMS alerts, if the reader wants the latest updates on financial-market movements or sports news, for example.
However, going the paid route has a special requirement, as the next point will prove.
2. Provide unique content.
It makes no sense to charge for content on mobile websites or applications if the same content is free on the traditional Web or in print. Moreover, unless the mobile operation has special content geared for on-the-go consumption, all efforts to erect pay walls will fail.
The Wall Street Journal had the chutzpah to charge for online and mobile content across traditional and mobile sites and applications simply because of its brand power and uniqueness of its business-focused news and analysis content. Publishers should emulate that model, if they can.
3. Pay attention to user experience and site/ application design.
Make sure the reading experience on a mobile site requires minimum navigation. Mobile is a top-down-scroll-and-touch experience.
Design the site or application keeping in mind the right thumb for scrolling purposes. Keep the headlines large. Also, avoid images that take a long time to load.
The ad units should be obvious for brand impression, but should not interrupt the reading experience. But do train readers to expect ads above and below the story, with a unit sandwiched between the copy. Run rich-media ads where applicable.
4. Utilize integrated advertising sales.
If you opt to run advertising on your mobile site(s) and applications—an absolute yes, if you ask yours truly, simply to get readers used to the experience—then the effort should be integrated across all channels.
It makes little sense to have a mobile or online ad sales team. Indeed, have the ad sales executives targeting various industry verticals or regions sell ads across all media–print, video, online and mobile.
For those who complain about measurement, mobile and online media are more measurable than print, at least when it comes to recording articles and ads clicked on. How do publishers know that the reader read the print ad?
It is key for the publisher to know its audience before introducing mobile changes or products.
Mobile readers want news on the quick and on the minute. They do not want to pay for the content unless the value is proved to them. The writing on the wall needs to make it to mobile. PE
Mickey Alam Khan is the New York-based editor-in-chief of mobile marketing trade publication Mobile Marketer, mobile commerce title Mobile Commerce Daily and luxury marketing staple Luxury Daily. He was previously editor-in-chief of eMarketer and DM News. He will be moderating the Mobile Strategy Summit at the 2011 Publishing Business Conference & Expo (PublishingBusiness.com), April 4-6, NYC.